Analyses in mouse models have revealed crucial roles for MafA (musculoaponeurotic fibrosarcoma oncogene family A) and MafB in islet β cells, with MafB being required during development and MafA in adults. These two closely related transcription factors regulate many genes essential for glucose sensing and insulin secretion in a cooperative and sequential manner. Significantly, the switch from MafB to MafA expression also appears to be vital for functional maturation of β cells produced by human embryonic stem (hES) cell differentiation. This review summarizes the discovery, distribution, and function of MafA and MafB in rodent pancreatic β cells, and describes some key questions regarding their importance to β cells.
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